A little more than two months ago I applied for the position of back-end developer at Devana Technologies. After successfully going through the first five steps of the hiring process, I feel that sharing my experience could be helpful to those who plan on following the same path.
I’m hoping that this post might encourage those who want to apply but don’t feel confident enough and potentially help some of the future candidates avoid making the mistakes that I made during the process. Since Devana’s hiring process has already been described in detail in another article, I’ll try to focus on peculiarities of my own experience as well as on how the entire process should look and feel from the candidate’s perspective.
From the very beginning I was aware that getting in won’t be an easy task for me, for several reasons. Firstly, although programming has been my passion for over a decade, I have had only brief contact with web development, which was the main requirement for the position that I applied for. Another major obstacle was that I have been a lone ranger for the most of my life, with little social skills and almost no teamwork experience.
I realized that this was something I had to overcome and that working for a startup where teamwork and social openness are expected and encouraged would be a perfect place for me to grow. Therefore, the real challenge for me was to compensate for the lack of required skills by showing willingness to work on myself and to step outside the comfort zone.
There is a good reason why people often refer to Devana as a “fortress”.
If you’ve had some previous experience with applying for roles at technical companies, you probably got used to a typical three-step process: submitting a formal application or CV, a brief phone screen interview and finally an in-person technical interview, after which you’d either receive an offer or get rejected. Hiring process at Devana goes much deeper than this. This is hinted at the very beginning with a simple puzzle which candidates have to solve even before submitting a formal application.
Once you’ve managed to get your application in, you will receive a follow-up email with twenty or so questions about your personality, interests, experience and skills. These questions have been designed to reveal your strengths and weaknesses, so it is important that you don’t rush through this part and take your time while answering each question.
You should also try to clearly convey why you want to work for a startup like Devana and why you consider yourself to be a suitable candidate for the given role. If all of this goes well, you will have a brief, non-technical phone interview with a Devana employee, during which you will have an opportunity to ask questions about the hiring process and the company in general.
The next step consists of several technical tasks suited to the candidate’s role, which have to be completed from home. For me, this was the most technically challenging part of the process, mostly because I had to learn the basics of four new technologies which I had never used before. However, don’t let this intimidate you.
Working for a startup implies that you will have to acquire new skills on regular basis and this step is an opportunity to demonstrate that you are capable and willing to do so.
There is no hard deadline. Also, some of these task have been deliberately left open-ended in order to filter out candidates that aren’t dedicated enough. Therefore, you should always try to go above and beyond of what is given in the basic specifications in order to ensure that you successfully complete this step.
Provided that the submitted solutions meet the quality standards, candidates will get invited to an on-site interview at the company’s headquarters. At this point, I was expecting a typical technical interview consisting of various technical problems and brainteasers, to be tackled on a whiteboard in front of hiring managers and potential peers.
However, it was nothing like that. Instead, I was given an opportunity to spend an entire day in company’s relaxed environment in order to get an idea of how a typical working day looks like. In the end, I felt like the purpose of this “interview” was to let the candidates to get to know the company, rather than the other way around. That part comes during the next step.
Initial one-week trial should start shortly after the interview and this is probably the part where most of the candidates (myself included) are likely to take a wrong approach due to false expectations. I have mistakenly assumed that this trial period was more about demonstrating technical skills by getting the work done rather than connecting with people and expressing one’s personality. In reality, this is a period during which other employees get to decide whether they want to work with you or not and they won’t be able to do that if you spend all of the time by yourself working on the given tasks.
Don’t get me wrong – it is obviously important that you complete the tasks that have been assigned to you, but it is equally important that you express yourself properly, so that your potential colleagues can get to know you better.
This period culminates with a short personal presentation which candidates have to deliver in front of the entire company. Once again, I made a mistake of assuming that since I was applying for a technical position, this presentation was supposed to be all about pointing out my previous achievements and acquired technical skills.
Once again, I was wrong. If you got this far, it is likely that you have already shown that your skills match those that are required for the given position. Instead, just like with the trail period, the purpose of this presentation is to express your personality, so that others can decide whether you are a cultural fit for the company. Therefore, the focus should be on your non-technical interests, hobbies and activities that you do in your spare time. Feel free to insert random fun facts about yourself or even embarrassing pictures from your past, as people will find these much more interesting than mundane facts about your past career or education, no matter how impressive they might be.
Since I had failed to comprehend all of this, people had to probe me with various personal questions after the presentation. My extreme introversion and obvious lack of teamwork experience had raised some negative flags, which others brought up immediately. Fortunately, since I was being honest about these issues and expressed willingness to work on overcoming them, I was given an opportunity to spend an extended three-week trial with customer happiness team, which is the most social environment in the company.
During this period I was being pushed hard to collaborate with others and get to know my potential colleagues. Although all of this was quite a stretch for me, it went well in the end, mostly because I had a clear idea of what was required this time. It was also of great help that others were able to understand my position and have therefore been extremely friendly during this period.
The entire second half of the process might sound a bit intimidating and stressful, but I think it can actually be quite straightforward if you know what to expect and take the right approach.
One of the key takeaways here is that everyone has their flaws and since you are going to be evaluated by twenty different people (among which is a professional psychologist), yours are likely to get spotted and probed. The best thing you can do is be completely open and honest about your weaknesses instead of trying to conceal them. If you get asked an open-ended or personal question after the presentation, don’t try to come up with an answer you think others would like to hear, because any inconsistencies or contradictions in your story will get spotted and pointed out without hesitation.
It is important to realize that if you get this far, others will want you to succeeded and will try to help you become a part of the environment where you can work on yourself and grow. This is what Devana’s “fortress” is all about.